01 Apr Athletics News Round-Up // The Eightlane Week 25/3/13 – 31/3/13

Thanks to the Bank Holiday, it’s an Eightane 8 days this week, although it makes little difference to what was a relatively slow few days in the world of athletics news. Still, there’s the remnants of the cross season to pick through, the return of outdoor track and some other odds and ends…

Tim Hutchings and the Cross Challenge

With the warm glow of success still being felt by the British junior women after their excellent bronze medals at the World Cross in Poland, British cross country legend Tim Hutchings made some interesting comments about the current state of winter endurance running in the UK.

The thrust of his argument was that racing the British cross season helped him and his contemporaries to become world class athletes back in the 1980s, and that the current crop of runners, in forgoing the mud and guts races here in Blighty to train at altitude, are missing a trick.

Hutchings is one of the most respected voices in the sport and when he speaks, people rightly listen. Nevertheless, while it is unarguable that racing regularly on the UK scene allowed him to progress, what isn’t known is whether training at altitude in Kenya would have been even more beneficial. Clearly there is great merit in Hutchings’s comments, but when considering the exploits of athletes in the 80s, it’s very difficult to pinpoint one single reason for their success and even more tricky to identify which aspects of their racing and training could be applied in the present, as this forum thread shows.

Outdoor track!

After the indoor season, and particularly its climax in Gothenburg, whetted the appetite for track and field action, the outdoor season began in earnest this week with the first set of meaningful results from the US collegiate circuit. While it’s the Payton Jordan Invitational that usually attracts the big names later in the spring, the Stanford Invitational (held at the same venue) kicked things off nicely with some eye catching early season results, including a 29:36 10000m by Tom Anderson and sub-34 runs from both Tina Muir and Katie Clarke.

The coming weeks will see plenty of Brits heading over to North America and, just as the likes of Tom Farrell, Chris Thompson and, especially, Julia Bleasdale did in 2012, we can expect some stellar results. This goes to show that the conventional track wisdom of beginning the outdoor season in late May or even June and packing up in mid-August is probably flawed, and that athletes are more capable than they think of producing their best across a wider date range, provided they’re sensible with both training and competition opportunities.

Indeed, even at the elite level, with the likes of F1, golf and tennis having 10 month (or more) seasons, a strong case could be made that track and field needs to completely rethink the length of its seasons in order to maximise exposure.

Okoye to the NFL

Towards the week’s end, Britain’s discus star and Olympic finalist, Lawrence Okoye, announced plans to forgo athletics for the foreseeable in order to give the NFL a try. Okoye was, apparently, on the books of London Irish rugby club for some time and many have been quick to point out that, given his physical characteristics, he really does have a range of options available to him in power based sports.

It’s at moments like this that distance runners all over the country can think themselves lucky. With skinny, lightweight and powerless specimens surprisingly not required in gridiron, or indeed pretty much any other sport or walk of life, everyone can get out for their Sunday 30 milers safe in the knowledge that an email from NFL recruiters is not going to be awaiting them on their return and that life changing, multi-million pound decisions aren’t going to be distracting them from their training any time soon.

Pistorius

Finally, the unfortunate case of Oscar Pistorius was in the news again this week and also the Eightlane forum, as news emerged that his bail conditions had been altered in order to allow foreign travel.

Despite protestations from his agent and likely interest from some minor promoters looking to make a name for themselves, don’t expect to see Diamond League promoters lining up to have him at their meets or to see him competing at the World Champs in Moscow. In fact, don’t expect to see him on a track at all, as the whole thing stinks of an attempt by his publicists to play things as “business as usual” in order to assist his case. Only time will tell if it’ll work…

By Dean Hardman